Planned power outage helped prevent ‘catastrophic’ failure

The planned campus-wide power outage the day after Christmas may have prevented what the head of university facilities says could have been a catastrophic failure of the university’s electrical system.

Power to campus was cut on the morning of Dec. 26 so that crews could inspect the university’s 23,000-volt main electrical feed from Ohio Edison. The university was closed for the day. During the inspection, crews found significant interior corrosion of a cabinet that, if left unrepaired, could have eventually resulted in a major explosion, fire and power failure.

“It would have been like a bomb going off,” said John Hyden, executive director of Facilities. The result would have been a power outage lasting at least several days, if not several weeks, causing significant interruptions to university business, he said.

“We got lucky,” said Bill Haas, YSU director of engineering.

Crews were successful in making temporary structural repairs, but Hyden said the entire cabinet will need to be replaced sometime in the next two to five years. For now, however, the equipment is safe and provides what Hyden called a “reasonable degree of reliability.”

“Any equipment can fail at anytime, but we have a high degree of certainty that we’ve addressed all of the critical issues,” he said.

The Dec. 26 power outage started at 8 a.m. and was planned to last eight hours and end at 5 p.m., but the power-down dragged until 10 p.m. while extra maintenance was performed.

“While we were dismayed to find what we found, we were really glad we found it, rather than it finding us,” Hyden added.